Thriller Novels

What are they?

So what is a thriller novel? As of today (in 2011) Wikipedia says that thriller novels are a genre of fiction in which tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them (and it further qualifies that, too).

The entry is disappointing, as it doesn’t properly address sub-genres. Also, I find the statement ‘essentially ordinary heroes’ to be completely meaningless. After all, the word hero means that he is not ordinary (and so too for heroines, of course).

Villains too need not be present in a thriller. Think about a thriller involving a natural disaster – one could hardy paint Mother Nature as a villain.

To me, a thriller novel is,simply, a novel which provides the reader with thrills. I write more about this in the first entry, Anatomy of the Thriller Novel  and in Where Did They Come From?

I’ve used several categories or sub-genres, as I see them:

  • Best Thrillers
    A catch-all. My pick of the best thrillers – books I’ve actually read, not a compilation of others’ lists compiled again from others’ lists. Spy novels figure strongly, but why? Is deceit and duplicity an important element?
  • How To Choose A Thriller Novel
    How to choose a thriller novel: Thriller novels have supplied suspense, exhilaration, and enjoyment to readers since the first beginnings of the genre. Here are some guidelines to finding the ones you will like. The skill of the thriller writer is in working the levers of the reader’s emotions and imagination to ratchet up the levels of tension and anticipation, laying false trails and building suspense. Not all writers are suitably skilled. Then, for me, a good thriller should inform as well as entertain and so the best thrillers will have been built around a lot of research – maybe into technology, culture or locations. They very best will have a fair bit of detail about all three, and other aspects, too.
  • The Anatomy Of Thriller Novels
    What makes thriller novels? For that matter, what is a thriller novel? James Marinero speculates on this eclectic genre, with at least eight sub-genres. Is it writing that gets the heart rate up, that gives you nightmares? Does it have to be gory? Does a good thriller stop you sleeping? My preferred reading in the thriller novels genre is that which might come in several flavours: action thriller, espionage thriller, techno-thriller, political thriller. Generally, they do not involve horror, the occult, crime or mystery fiction in the conventional sense, neither do they necessarily involve physical violence (though there are few that do not). Suspense there should be, aplenty, and there will be crimes, for sure. But thrills? Gut wrenching fright? I guess that comes down to how the individual reader ‘gets their thrills’. It’s an interesting word to apply, but in this genre for me it means that you cannot put down a book because the story is so engaging – it’s 2 am and you have to work the next day…go on, just one more chapter!
  • Thriller Novels: Where Did They Come From?
    Thriller novels have supplied suspense, exhilaration, and enjoyment to readers since the first beginnings of the genre. What are the origins, structures and devices used in this great literary tradition? The precursors of thriller novels originated with the writers of ancient civilizations such as the Greeks or Persians. For example, the Odyssey in Greek and the Mahabharata in Sanskrit were, arguably created using narrative structures still shown in today’s thriller novels. Originating in the 10th Century (so research suggests and translated by Sir Richard Burton in the 19th Century), ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ (aka The Arabian Nights) plots the first ever detective thriller as a story entitled as “The Three Apples”.
  • Best Thriller Books Authors
    Who is the best thriller book author? It’s a tough one, I know – here are some suggestions, and a chance for you to have your say. The genre is very wide, and the best plots are intense and deeply interwoven.
  • Best Thriller Novels – The Spy Genre Dissected
    Many of the best thriller novels are so-called spy novels. What are the secrets of the best spy novels when target readers are relatively sophisticated and used to coping with complex plots? The very best thriller novels will include a broad spectrum of these topics, with one, or perhaps two, explored in great depth as the core of the work. Spy novels are a difficult genre in which to write well, because they usually involve characters of high intellect. Developing those characters, their motivations, thought processes and associated plots requires a high degree of skill, and dare I say, intellect, on the part of the author.
  • Action Thriller Novels
    An index to my favourite action thriller novels. Is it writing that gets the heart rate up, that gives you nightmares? Does it have to be gory? Does a good thriller stop you sleeping? Do you like your action continuous or continual?
  • Drama Thriller Novels
    Do some drama novels (frequently categorized as fiction novels) really qualify as thriller novels. It depends…Is it writing that gets the heart rate up? Does a good thriller stop you sleeping? A great thriller should give you vivid nightmares.
  • Espionage Thriller Novels
    An index to my favourite espionage thriller novels. Spy craft and subterfuge, duplicity and double dealing – lying, deceiving, planning, cheating, executing. All ingredients of the best spy novels.
  • Political Thriller Novels
    An index to my favourite political thriller novels. Superpower politics is an eternal subject for thriller writers. First it was Russia, the next one will be China. House of Cards is also a great political thriller, with a great style where the main character directly addresses the reader in asides.
  • Supernatural Thriller Novels
    Supernatural thriller novels involve the occult, supernatural phenomena, and life beyond the grave (or returning from the grave – as zombies do).